Middle East

Syria war: 'Dozens killed' as jihadists clash in Idlib

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Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters Image copyright AFP
Image caption The fighting is seen as a power struggle between jihadist groups

Dozens of fighters have been killed in clashes between two jihadist factions in northern Syria, reports say.

The battles involved Tahrir al-Sham, formerly an al-Qaeda affiliate, and Jund al-Aqsa, regarded as close to so-called Islamic State (IS).

UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the fighting was a "war for influence" in Idlib province.

Inter-factional fighting has beleaguered insurgents since early on in the Syria war.

Last month, a hardline Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, was also involved in days of clashes in Idlib with Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which rebranded itself as Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist groups, at the end of January.

Nearly 70 people have been killed in the latest fighting, which began on Monday morning, according to the SOHR and a rebel commander.

Tahrir al-Sham has captured six villages from Jund al-Aqsa, the SOHR said. The two sides are also reported to have clashed in the north of neighbouring Hama province.

Idlib province, in the country's north-west, has long been a rebel stronghold, dominated by Ahrar al-Sham and JFS/Tahrir al-Sham.

The SOHR said the fighting erupted after Jund al-Aqsa carried out a suicide bombing on Tahrir al-Sham, killing nine people, AFP news agency reported.

However, a Jund al-Aqsa commander told the Associated Press that Tahrir al-Sham had attacked his group's positions first.

The two factions were allied for a short time last year but fell out soon after.